The report

“A line waiting for its story,” says he. No longer!

But one does have to wonder: what’s an Iowa farm boy doing, thinking of such things?

She raises her knee, turns slightly towards me. There’s no way I’ll have this report ready for tomorrow. The cursor blinks and blinks in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, a little upright stick offering itself for my use, endlessly patient. Help me stop time, I plead with my eyes as she pulls me into her orbit. I wish you were a drug that I could inject directly into my bloodstream.

I sink to my knees, bury my face in the pleats of her skirt to hide the sudden, inexplicable rush of tears. I want to be saved, to be raised from the dead, but not by Jesus.

Some time later we are lying on the couch waiting for our breathing to slow. The sweat, saliva, tears, and other slick juices freshly exuded from our bodies as they struggled to exceed themselves are rapidly drying and hardening into a new crust. I stare up at the poorly centered ceiling fan rocking from side to side as it spins. One of her legs lies heavily on top of mine. She is a burden to me now as I am to myself.

I search for something original to say, but my mind is blank – and not like a clear sky, no. Like a sky gone white with snow, and snow on the ground. There are so many ways to be lost!

She props her head on her hand, turns my face gently but firmly toward hers. “It’s only me,” she says. “It’s only me.” Yes, of course. The report will have to wait just a little longer.

A week later we’re standing in front of the Justice of the Peace, a middle-aged black woman with wire-rimmed glasses. “Do you know what to do when the romance runs thin and the sink is overflowing with dirty dishes?” she asks sternly. “Wash the dishes,” I say without a moment’s hesitation. “O.K., you’ll do!” she says with a little more warmth. “Now I advice you to pray for thanksgiving from Whomever – or Whatever – you choose. I’m no preacher, but I tell this to every couple. When it seems like there’s nothing else left, there’s still this one thing. You can always give thanks.”

She’s right, of course. That next morning when I had returned to the office, I had found a memo from the project manager in my inbox. “If you haven’t finished that report yet, don’t bother,” it read. “In light of recent developments, we have been forced to reassess our complete marketing structure. I’m terribly sorry for all the time I know you put into this. To make it up to you, I’m giving you a week of paid vacation, starting tomorrow.” Thank you, I had murmured to no one in particular. The sky had looked as if it might clear soon.

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